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Engaging in risky behaviour while driving increases your chance of being in a fatal or serious injury collision.
Aggressive driving behaviours
Aggressive driving includes a range of risky behaviours that are intentional and not due to driver error. These include:
- excessive speed and street racing
- running red lights
- speeding up to get through a yellow light
- weaving in and out of traffic
- failing to yield
- impaired driving
- swearing, yelling, and gesturing at other drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians
- using the horn when annoyed
- taking risks for fun
Aggressive driving behaviours are not related to road conditions, weather or other factors outside a driver's control. They are related to the choices a driver makes about how to behave while driving and how to respond to other road users.
‘Road rage’ is often used interchangeably with the term ‘aggressive driving’, but it has been defined in research as a situation where a driver or passenger:
- attempts to intimidate, injure, or even kill a pedestrian, driver or passenger
- attempts to damage someone else's vehicle
The difference between aggressive driving and road rage is the intention of the person to do physical harm. Aggressive drivers intentionally disregard safety, but do not intend to harm anyone.
A number of factors may contribute to a driver choosing to engage in aggressive behaviours, such as:
- increased traffic volume
- delays or detours from construction, roadwork, or hazards
- time pressure and feeling late
- stress from personal or work lives
These factors can lead to feelings of:
- increased stress
These factors and feelings make it more likely that a driver will engage in aggressive behaviours on the road.
Avoiding aggressive driving
Be aware of your reactions on the road. Avoid situations that will make you feel frustrated and angry when you can. When you do encounter stressful situations, stay calm. Here are some tips to help.
- Check road and weather conditions before you leave to see if there are construction or other potential delays on your route.
- Leave extra time to arrive at your destination in case there is a delay.
- Make sure you have contact information on hand so that if something does happen, you can pull over and contact your family, friends, appointment or work to let them know you will be delayed.
- If you are already feeling stressed from personal or work situations, consider taking transit, taxi or ride share instead of driving to avoid further potential stressful situations and reduce the pressure you might feel while driving.
Allow for mistakes
- Remember that mistakes happen. You cannot control the behaviour of other road users, you can only control your own behaviour and reactions.
- Consider that the other driver may have just made a mistake, rather than intentionally doing something to make you angry.
- Remaining polite and courteous will not further escalate any situation and will also help your own mood.
Set an example
- Remember that your safety is paramount and that engaging in aggressive driving behaviours increases your chances of being in a casualty collision.
- Treat others as you would like to be treated on the road.
- Respect other road users, follow the speed limit, and do not tailgate or cut off other drivers.
- If you find yourself feeling very angry, notice that you are engaging in aggressive driving, or perhaps have become engaged in an emotional conversation with a passenger, consider pulling over until you can regain your calm.
Responding to aggressive driving
Remember that you cannot control the actions of other drivers. If faced with an aggressive driver or a road rage incident, your safety should be your main concern.
- If you see an aggressive driver, do not make eye contact and refrain from honking or making rude gestures.
- Do not do anything to escalate the driver's behaviour.
- Do not engage in aggressive behaviours yourself.
- Remember that the person is a stranger to you; you do not need to let a stranger have a major impact on your mood or behaviour.
- If you are confronted by someone, keep your doors locked and your windows rolled up. Leave the area as soon as you can do so safely. Drive to the nearest police station or call 911 if you are in immediate danger.
- If you witness an incident you believe is road rage, do not get directly involved. Call the police to report what you saw.